Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition came on the scene to much anticipation back in the Spring of 1989.  I was in college at the time but I still managed to get the books very close on release day.  The game was largely an update and cleanup of the AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Gygax had been gone from TSR for a while at this point and the rules lacked his "voice" but they were a significant improvement in many ways.  

But today no one talks about the 2nd ed rules as much as they talk about the settings.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

There is no doubt that the 2nd edition made many improvements to the AD&D ruleset. While Basic-era D&D moved on with the BECMI series, AD&D came here.  With the streamlined, but not simplified, rules in place TSR focused on what they believed to be their cash-cow, settings.  And to be fair the settings are what we all recall today.  There were also tons of splat books and eventually an update that was called AD&D 2.5 by some, but never by the company.  

This was also the edition that caved under the pressure of the religious right and bowdlerized demons and devils right out of the system.  It would not be till later with Planescape that we got them back in the forms of Tanarri and Batatezu. 

Since the Splats and Settings are so important to the identity of 2nd Edition it behooves me to mention a couple and my relationship with them. Not to mention the witch options they gave me.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook

Among 2nd Eds features were the "Kits" or archetypes you could apply to various classes to customize them.  Sadly like many splat books you see power creep in these. The Complete Bard's Handbook was one of the worst offenders along with the Elves book. But today is not the day to discuss those. Today I want to talk about the Witch Kit.

The Witch-kit appeared in the Complete Wizard's Handbook and was a mere 3 or so pages, but it was the first official witch class in AD&D.  She got powers every odd level and had a lot of role-playing potential.  This might seem more powerful than your average wizard, but at the time everyone was assumed to have a kit of some sort.

Ravenloft

My world of choice in the 2nd Ed era was Ravenloft.  The gothic horror tropes were too much of a lure to avoid. Interestingly enough it would not be until Spring of 2000 when Ravenloft would get their first witch class/kit and by this time they were owned by Wizards of the Coast.

This class/kit gave us the Witches of Hala, which is a kit that any non-magic using class could use, so only Fighter and Theif. But the witches did gain some spell abilities.  To differentiate between the two witches Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium, Vol 3 calls the Complete Wizard Witch Kit the "Sorcerous Witch." To further distinguish them I took to calling the Witches of Hala "Hedge Witches."

Forgotten Realms

During the 2nd Edition years, Forgotten Realms was the undisputed King of the Campaign Worlds.  I largely ignored it.  I have made up for lost time since then and been spending more time in the Realms, but that is another post.  I did however know all about the Witches of Rashemen and Spellbound was one of the first Realms products I ever bought. This setting also uses the wizard kit and the Witches of Rasemaar kit.


Due to the amount of material I have here I am also going to do two characters.

The Character: Sinéad

Following my Celtic-influenced witches, I give you Sinéad.  Of course, she is named for Sinéad O'Connor whose album "The Lion and the Cobra" pretty much changed everything for me in 1988/1989.  

Sinéad is built using the Witch Kit from the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Now the witch kit says they can't be multi-classed, but the concept I want to try is. So I am going to do it anyway, but not choose a kit for the Bard class.  Some of the restrictions on this kit feel the same as the removal of the demons and devils; giving the players in-game reasons not to use it.

Sinéad is not a character I played back then, but this build is pretty close to what I would have created back in 1989 while living in Room 109 of the Wright I Hall Dorms.

Goodwife Sinéad
(Goodwife is how you address a witch whose marital status is unknown)
Half-elf 7th level Wizard (Witch Kit)/7th level Bard
Chaotic Good

STR: 12
DEX: 16
CON: 15
INT: 17
WIS: 14
CHA: 16

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 50
THAC0 (Base): 17

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities (Singing)
Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Bard: (1st) Light, Faerie Fire, Protection from Evil (2nd) Charm Person, Hold Person (3rd) Dispel Magic
Wizard (Witch): (1st) Audible Glammer, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Identity (2nd) Continual Light, Spectral Hand, Ray of Enfeeblement (3rd) Lightning bolt, Fly (4th) Dimension Door

The Character: Nida

Nida is a character I have been playing around with for my War of the Witch Queens.  She is supposed to represent the "other" witches of 2nd Ed, the ones I didn't use but the ones everyone else did. That is the Witches of Hala and the Witches of Rashemen.  She is not a starting character because I need her to have some history.

Nida was a Rashmi girl born to poor parents.  She was playing when she was taken into the Mists and found herself in the lands of Ravenloft.  She became a thief to survive the world on her own until she tried to pick the pockets of a Witch of Hala. For the next ten years she trained with this witch and learned the secrets of Hala and her magic. One night she was hunting a particularly nasty Annis Hag when she found herself back in her homeland of Rashemen.  Unable to return, she tried to pick up her life before she left only to discover her family had long since died.  She began training as a Wychlaran, or a Witch of Rashemen.  Like the witches of her homeland she adopted a mask and changed her name to "Nida" which means "voice."

Note: Since Nida is a dual classed character, a Thief/Mage, there is no reason to assume she can't be a Thief (Witch of Hala) / Mage (Witch of Rashemen) even though the Witch of Hala can't be taken by a spellcaster (she is a thief at the time) and the Witch of Rashemen has to be a spellcaster (she is a mage at the time).


Lady Nida
Human 4th level Thief (Witch of Hala Kit) / 9th level Wizard (Witch of Rashemen kit)
Chaotic Neutral*
(Witches in Ravenloft can't be chaotic, but this is the character concept I have.)

STR: 11
DEX: 16
CON: 16
INT: 17
WIS: 13
CHA: 18

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 48
THAC0 (Base): 18

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 13
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities, Ancient History
Pick Pockets (35%) Open Locks (35%), Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Witch of Hala: (1st) Combine, Reveal the Weave, Luck (2nd) Arcane Insights, Master Coven Magic (3rd) Water Walk
Wizard (Witch of Rahemen): (1st) Circle, Alarm, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp (2nd) Dazzle, Protection from Poison, Blindness, Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter (3rd) Firelance, Lightning bolt, Suggestion (4th) Negate Magic Weapon, Magic Mirror (5th) Teleport

I like these builds. I certainly want to use Nida somewhere.  Maybe see what she is like with another system. Both are 14th level and have a similar range of abilities.

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition

AD&D Players Manual
Up until 2000 if you said "D&D" most people thought of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.   Indeed it was AD&D that dominated the later part of the 1970s, 1980s, and with 2nd Edition the 90s. Though that is for tomorrow's post.

Today I take on the game that I played the most and the one that dominates the imagination of so many still today.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

A lot of ink, both real and virtual, has been spilled on the whats, whys, and hows of the differences between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D, so I see no need to spill more here.  Suffice to say that they are different games, though we freely mixed them back in the day. 

The evolution of D&D from Original to 5th edition sees it's first divergence here. 

In the AD&D 1st Ed years there was no official witch class.  There were however many unofficial and semi-official witch classes.  I talked about the Dragon Magazine #43 witch yesterday but I used it for Basic D&D.  The class was famously, or maybe infamously, updated in 1986 for AD&D in the pages of Dragon #114.  It was, and maybe still is, one of the most popular versions of the witch ever made for D&D.

AD&D Players Manual, 4 versions

The Character: Rhiannon

Ah. If I had a dime for every Rhiannon I have run into over the years. 

Not that I can blame anyone. The Golden Age of AD&D was the early 80s and the Queen of the music charts was Stevie Nicks. "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac was released in 1975 on the album Fleetwood Mac. The second Fleetwood Mac album to feature this title, and their tenth overall, but the first with new couple Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  But in the 1980s it wasn't this album or even the insanely good and popular Rumours or Tusk that grabbed me and my imagination. No it was Stevie's solo efforts Belladonna and (especially) The Wild Heart that began my deep, deep love affair with witches.

Rhiannon would be an old witch in my games today. Likely a relative or even a spiritual Goddess-mother to Larina.  But today she is the young Maiden who "rings like a bell through the night" and looks for a lover.  I can't help think of her as anything but the famous art Elmore drew in the Dragon #114 piece.  If she looks a little like Stevie, well, maybe Stevie looks like her.

Rhiannon
1st level Witch, Sisters of the Moon coven, High Secret Order
Chaotic Good

STR: 11
INT: 16
WIS: 13
DEX: 13
CON: 11
CHA: 15

AC: 9
HP: 3

Saving Throws
Witches use the best of Cleric & Magic-user Saves.

Poison or Death: 10
Petrification or Polymorph: 13
Rod, Staff, or Wands: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spell: 12

Saves +2 against other witch magic

Spells
1st (1+3):  Darkness, Mending, Seduction, Sleep

Equipment
Dagger, backpack, iron rations, water, 50' rope, staff.

AD&D Players Manuals and Dragon #114
Everything you need for a witch character in 1986

I think an updated, and more mature, Rhiannon will need to grace my War of the Witch Queens games sometime.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Dungeons & Dragons, Basic Edition

Monday of the first week of the year and it is back to the day job for me.  Thankfully I planned an easy (for me) one today.  To continue with the editions of Dungeons & Dragons we are now up to Basic D&D. 

Basic D&D Boxed set

The Game: Basic Dungeons & Dragons 

I have told the tale here many times on how I began with Holmes Basic, but the first D&D I ever owned was the Moldvay Basic Set.  I played Basic D&D, just "D&D" to me then,  but soon I and everyone else, were mixing it liberally with bits of AD&D.  Sometimes I think of the days when a Blue or Red D&D Basic book was used side by side with the AD&D Monster Manual and modules.

Spend any time here and you will know of my love for Basic D&D. So there is little more I can say here.

The Character: Áine nic Elatha

The witch class I am pairing with this is the one from Dragon Magazine #43 and using the guidelines set out by Tom Moldvay on what a witch should be. 

Dragon Magazine #43 was published in November 1980; the high point of Holmes Basic, the start of AD&D popularity, and one year before Moldvay Basic was released.  The class is overtly designed for AD&D, but as I mentioned we used Basic and Advanced interchangeably.  I suppose if I am being true to Basic I should drop the bonus spells per Intelligence the witch gains.

Given the time and this tantalizing promise, I can justify making it for a bastardized Basic/Advanced D&D.

The witch from Holmes

Áine daughter of Elatha is a human magic-user (Basic after all).  She is "the path not taken" for me.  My first "witch-like" character was Luna, a cleric that worshipped an unnamed moon goddess. While she would later morph into something else, I soon created other witch type characters, Áine is what that character could have been if I had chosen Magic-user rather than Cleric.

Áine nic Elatha
1st level Human Witch

STR: 10
INT: 17
WIS: 12
DEX: 11
CON: 12
CHA: 11

AC: 9
HP: 3

Spells
1st (1+3):  Change Self, Cure Wounds, Light, Sleep

Equipment
Dagger, backpack, iron rations, water, holy water, darts (3), 50' rope, staff.


Holmes & Moldvay Basic sets

If you are doing this challenge as well please feel free to post on the Facebook group, I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters.

Also, this month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month!

Do check them out!


Sunday, January 3, 2021

War of the Witch Queens Session 2: Into the Ruins of Ramat

We got a chance to play the second full session of War of the Witch Queens today, our last day of winter vacation.  Today's adventure dealt with leveling up the characters to level 1 and giving them a slight boost in HP.  The characters also got the chance to buy some real weapons and armor.

All in the process they learned about the terrible Ruins of Ramat from the villagers of Wydfield Woodfield.


The party searched the ruined church and found their way down into the underground structure where the clerics had lived and trained.   

They still need to find the spear and use it to defeat the ghost above.  Hopefully, we can get a session in this week, even with work.

The players are learning a key feature of Basic-era D&D.  Sometimes it is better to run away.  

Since everyone is now level 1, I am allowing the players to diversify their characters.  One thief is now an Assassin from OSE-Advanced. The magic-users are splitting up into a Blood Witch, Sorcerer, and Wizard.  I am going to let them choose from a common spell list, and then also a spell list unique to each class. One cleric is going to focus on being a healer.  So I need to get that written up with some ideas. 

For this game, I swapped out my New Big Dragon Game Master's Screen for the Old School Essentials Screen.  Both work great.

The tiles are Dwarven Forge and the temple is from Reaper Minis.

Can't wait to see where we all go next!

Character Creation Challenge: Dungeons & Dragons, Original Edition

Today is the start of the first full week of January and thus 2021.  So let's spend some time this week with the Grand-daddy of all RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons.  Every day this week I am going to do an edition of D&D.  Today I am going to start with Original Dungeons & Dragons. 

The Game: Dungeons & Dragons

D&D is arguably the first RPG ever created and certainly to first-ever mass-marketed.  Original D&D is a great game that is a lot of fun, if you can find a group that plays it correctly.  One summer back in 1987 I played in a summer-long campaign of OD&D using the Eldritch Wizardry rules.  I was already a HUGE fan of the Eldritch Wizardry supplement, having picked up a copy back in 1985.  I loved the demons, the druids, and the psionic rules.

To do my witch I thought I might do a druid, Rules as Written, but I think instead I want to use the witch class from The Dragon Magazine #5 (1977). Though that witch is more of a "monster" type than an NPC or class.  So I will also look at The Dragon Magazine #20 (1978).  This works for me since I like to consider 1977/78 the "end" of OD&D's run and the start of "Basic" D&D and AD&D's prominence. 

I will do the 3d6 in order, but I am also going to reorder as needed to get the numbers I need. 

In true OD&D form I am going to start her as a Magic-User and choose spells from The Dragon #5 & #20 witch lists.

witches in OD&D

The Character: Deirdre

Deirdre is a witch idea I had while reading Celtic Myths.  I know very little about her yet except she seems to be sad.  

Deirdre
1st level Magic-User (Medium) [Witch]

STR: 8
INT: 14
WIS: 13
DEX: 14
CON: 13
CHA: 11

Equipment: Dagger, 50' rope, staff, iron rations, 3 pouches (2 empty, 1 with spell components), spellbook, iron spikes, water skin w/ water, 4 darts.

Spells: Sleep

witch from The Dragon #5

I used the dice roller on Google for this. Not too bad really. If the rolls had favored it I would have made her a druid since that also works out nice.  I am sure there will be some druids in my characters this month.

Original D&D rules

Tardis Captain, who started this challenge, is keeping a running list of participating blogs on his site and people are posting over at RPG.net as well.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Dark Places & Demogorgons

Next to NIGHT SHIFT, Dark Places & Demogorgons is one of my favorite Old-school inspired, modern horror games.  It is similar and yet very different from NIGHT SHIFT and I really enjoy it.

The Game: Dark Places & Demogorgons

I have talked a lot about this game on these pages. Basically, it is the "Stranger Things" the game using the very same 80s inspired D&D that the show used.

The Character: Taryn Nix

Taryn is the daughter of my iconic witch Larina. She is my "Teen Witch" archetype, so a perfect follow-up to my Sabrina post AND a great choice for the teen-centric Dark Places and Demogorgons.

If Larina is my go-to witch for fantasy games then Taryn is my go-to for teen games. 

I imagine her as a little rebellious and an expert flyer/broom-rider.

For this build, I am using the White Witch options from the DP&D Player Options & GM Guide.

While I always thought of Taryn as a Millenial/GenZ girl, she is named after "Taryn" from the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Which I might admit is my favorite.

Taryn "Nix" Nichols

Class: White Witch  Level: 1
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, Latin
Age: 13

Attributes
STR: 9 +0
INT: 14 +1
WIS: 15 +1
DEX: 13 +1
CON: 17 +2
CHA: 18 +3
SUR: 16 +2

AC: 10     HP:  10   Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 8
Critical: 5
Death: 5
Mental: 6
Poison: 3

Background
Mother is a Witch, her father is some sort of supernatural creature. 

Class Abilities
+1 to all saves against magic, +3 to Courage saves, Likable aura (+1 Charisma & +1 to Death saves), Healing Touch x5 a day (1 HP healing to living, 1 HP damage to undead, devils, or demons), heal at double rate, Toughness: Evil +2

Familiar
Black cat, "Mojo".

Skills
Art +4, Math +3, Science +3, Knowledge (Magic) +5, Paranormal +5, Botany +3

Possessions
Bike, Broom of Flying

Money: $45

Spells
Minor (1): Glammerd Appearance

Perfect really.


Friday, January 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: NIGHT SHIFT

Welcome to 2021! Happy New Year and here's to a better year.  I am going to start this year with the Character Creation Challenge. 

A lot of people will be doing this and that is fantastic.  So if you are doing this on your blog, Twitter, YouTube, or wherever you have an open invitation to post a link to you creation in the comments section below.  I have moderation turned on to stop the spammers, but I'll approve your post.

For me, I am going to do witches. That's my thing and it is why so many people come here I think. Plus it is a challenge for me to take a game and make a witch, Rules As Written.  In every post I will give a little bit of detail about the RPG used and then the character I make and how they might fit into my world or campaigns.

Today I want to start with a game very near and dear to my heart. 

The Game: NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars is a modern supernatural monster hunting game written by Jason Vey and myself.  We took all of the work we have collectively done with Old-School RPGs along with all the experiences we had while working on Buffy, Angel, Army of Darkness, Ghosts of Albion, and All Flesh Must Be Eaten and poured it into this new game.  My personal goals here were to make a game that I could play any type of witch I wanted and to fill the Buffy-shaped hole in my life.  I feel I succeeded in both.  

NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

The Character: Sabrina Spellman

Last night the fourth (and sadly the last) season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was released. I am only up to episode 5 so far, but I have all day today.  Plus Sabrina gives me the chance to see how well NIGHT SHIFT holds up to my design goals.

Sabrina Spellman

4th level Female Witch (Supernatual)* 
(In Sabrina's world a witch is a different species of human and different than a "mortal."  Sabrina is also the daughter of Lucifer Morningstar.)

Strength: 10
Dexterity: 15 
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 12
Charisma: 17

HP: 8
Alignment: Neutral (Good Tendencies)
AC: 9 [10]

Check Bonus: +3 (Primary) +2 (Secondary) +0 (Tertiary)

Familiar: Salem (Cat)

Arcane Powers
Supernatural: Astral Travel (to Hell only)
Witch: Innate Magic (Glamour), Telepathic Transmission

Spells 
First: (3) Command, Mind Obscure, Obscurement
Second: (2) ESP, Produce Flame

It's hard to nail down her spells really. She has shown she can cast teleport, exorcism, astral projection and more.  Some of this is plot-focused, others are one-shot abilities.  All I can explain with the use of my ritual magic rules from my Basic-era books.

This version stacks up well with the Swords & Wizardry version and the Cinematic Unisystem version I posted a while back.

I think this is a pretty good build for her to be honest. NIGHT SHIFT really works well for both of my design goals, and a great start to this challenge.